It is not news that the number of mobile health apps available continues to increase. But a major question is whether physicians are aware of these apps, and if so, do they recommend them to their patients? A recent study conducted in Sweden was done to answer this question.
Using various models, a web based survey was created and answered by 44 Swedish physicians. After the survey, each physician also had 2 interviews. The surveys determined if the physicians currently recommend, would recommend, or will never recommend medical apps. It also determined what the physicians felt were the benefits of apps, barriers to using them and what affected the quality of apps. Of the 44 physicians, it should be noted that 38 were general practitioners, two were cardiologists, two treated diabetes, one was a pediatrician and one was a chiropractor. The age group was between 37-48 years old and there was an equal distribution of males and females.
The results of the survey showed that more than 95% of the respondents knew of health apps and many used them themselves. More than half of the physicians stated that patients had asked them about apps. Only 36.7% stated that they recommend apps to patients, however, over 56% stated they would be willing to recommend apps to patients in the future. Also interesting, only 6.8% stated that they would never recommend mobile health apps to patients.
These results show that, in Sweden, there is in interest in recommending apps to patients, however, there may be some barriers that may prevent physicians from starting that practice now. Some of the barriers mentioned in the study include physicians being unaware of existing apps, lack of integration with clinical data, lack of surveillance by governing/regulating bodies, lack of evidence based content, etc. However, the survey results also showed that a major benefit of health apps that physicians see is the potential to improve a patient’s self-management ability.
Physicians can be the major opinion leaders when it comes to useful medical apps. Recommending them to their patients and colleges is a way to disseminate information about these apps. The results of this study, although limited to a sample size of only 44 physicians, show that physicians are currently ready to start recommending apps and have a positive attitude towards health apps. In order for physicians to recommend health apps to their patients and colleagues there needs to be a more easily accessible source of information about useful medical apps. This is something the iMedicalApps team has been working towards with the iPrescribeApps platform that is currently being worked on.